A lot of local art centers and even some galleries have put together special sales this year for the gift-giving season. An added feature of the Holiday Art Market at the Foothills Art Center (809 Fifteenth Street, Golden, 303-279-3922) is the absolutely perfect setting of the center itself, which is nothing if not Christmasy. The sale is in the main part of the center, a charming Victorian church and matching parish house; embraced by mature evergreens and dramatically perched on the brow of a steep hill, these buildings look just like the scene on a Christmas card.

The theme for the market this year, and for the seasonal decorations, is a Mexican-American Christmas -- or would that be Chicano? Or Hispano? Anyway, sunny yellow dried straw has been woven into the dark-green garlands that decorate the center, and the big wreath on the front of the church is adorned with pink and yellow tissue-paper flowers.

The Southwestern theme is seen throughout the market and extends into an art show, Fiesta! The Art of Mexican Celebration, that's installed in Foothills II, a second Victorian house just south of the church. The small presentation brings together a generation of local Hispanic artists, such as Tony Ortega, who came of age in the 1980s. Although not all of the pieces are about Christmas, many are, including Ortega's "Las Velas de las Posadas" (above), which records a tradition from Mexico. The painting shows a procession in the snow in which the faithful re-create the search for shelter by Mary and Joseph on the first Christmas. The setting for the procession is obviously Ortega's own west Denver neighborhood.

Among the other well-known Hispanic artists represented are Daniel and Maruca Salazar, Carlos Frésquez and Sylvia Montero. An interesting feature of Fiesta! is a group of black-and-white photographs of the artists, many of them in their studios, which curator Kristi Martens had photographer Lee Hovey King create for the show.

Holiday Art Market closes at noon on Christmas Eve. Fiesta! comes down January 13.


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